Greenbank social group at the forefront of national rollout for walking soccer by Aiden Taylor

Walking or jogging through soccer drills is common practice for traditional soccer players looking to hone their skills, but increasingly, walking soccer is taking on a life of its own as a popular social activity in Queensland communities.

Greenbank’s over 50s club has latched onto the movement, with training every Monday and gameplay every Wednesday, giving all ages a chance to socialise and improve their fitness without the physicality of traditional soccer.

Greenbank Over 50s Walking Soccer group started in October 2019, making it one of Queensland’s foundation clubs under the FFA’s rollout of the sport.

“It’s a new concept, which is a small-sided version of the real game, and it’s usually played five-v-five, six-v-six, and it’s generally been developed to allow participants to improve their mental and physical capabilities, and it’s just a great social outlet for them as well,” says Alan Templeton from Football Queensland, who launched the modified format of the sport in Brisbane three years ago and started coaching Greenbank’s group last year.

He says before the concept came to Brisbane, it had been in the UK for around 9 years, where more than 800 clubs exist. In 2019, Football Federation Australia acquired funding as part of the Federal Government’s $1.8 million Better Ageing Grant to facilitate the program in metropolitan, regional, and remote locations.

There are a range of social and competitive tournaments all over Australia, plus international trips on offer.

Most importantly, Mr Templeton says the sport is not age-restrictive.

“We see families get involved with it too – we see mother-daughter, father-son, and sometimes grandparents too,” says Mr Templeton.

Marianna Woods is in her first year of walking soccer with the group.

“I saw it advertised on Facebook and I’ve always liked sports, so I thought ‘beauty’ I’ll be in that,” Ms Woods says.

Photo: Marianna Woods at training

It’s a lot of fun and full of laughs – the team is really nice, there’s no real seriousness about it, it’s all just fun, and that’s what it’s meant to be.”

“I usually do about 10-thousand steps, at least, on a Wednesday, so it’s good fitness for us and not running, which I can’t do.”

For Allan Fredericks, the group has been a means of returning to physical activity after suffering a stroke.

“I had a stroke a year ago, I don’t run that great because my right side was all affected with the stroke, so my wife said ‘here’s your opportunity to get out and about and do a little bit more exercising,” Mr Fredericks says.

“I’ve met some great people here, they seem to be a good bunch you can relate to, they just take me on board and see that I have an injury, so it’s good to know that I’m accepted.”

Watching from the sidelines every Wednesday is Greenbank Over 50s group member Shirley Watterson, aged 88.

“I’m the cheer squad leader, I’m the lot,” says Ms Watterson.

Ms Watterson says while her playing days are over, she is trying to get her daughter involved.

“She has just had a knee replacement, so when she gets back on her feet, I reckon this will be really good for her because there’s no running and you’ve got to walk,” she says.

“I love just coming here and watching them, it doesn’t matter if you’re crawling on your hands and knees or you’re walking, it’s sport, and that’s the main thing.”

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